Berlusconi 'in US for tests before pacemaker operation'

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The Independent Online

Silvio Berlusconi has decided to have surgery in the US, a close ally said yesterday amid reports that the former Italian prime minister is to get a pacemaker. A senior aid to Mr Berlusconi said he was already in America for tests.

"Berlusconi has decided to have surgery in America," Northern League leader Umberto Bossi told a rally of supporters in Milan without naming the hospital or the kind of operation.

Later in the evening, Mr Berlusconi's spokesman, Paolo Bonaiuti, said Mr Berlusconi had gone to the US yesterday "for some medical tests which had been planned".

Mr Bonaiuti said that more news would be given in the coming days but no details were immediately given.

Rumours that the conservative opposition leader, 70, was considering having the implant have been swirling since Friday, when an Italian daily wrote that he was going to the US for a pacemaker operation.

Mr Berlusconi told reporters on Saturday that he would be in Rome in the coming week to work, but did not directly comment on the rumours.

Mr Berlusconi collapsed while giving a speech to his Forza Italia party in Tuscany on 26 November and spent a few days in a Milan hospital for tests. His aides and doctor blamed the collapse on a drop in blood pressure.

Mr Bossi appeared to suggest that Mr Berlusconi might already be in the US. "Let's hear some nice applause. At least from far away he can hear it," Mr Bossi said. "Maybe he will get better sooner. Come back! Get well!" said Mr Bossi, whose party was a partner in Mr Berlusconi's 2001-2006 government.

Milan daily Corriere della Sera reported that Mr Berlusconi spoke by phone on Wednesday with US President George Bush, another close ally, to sound him out about various hospitals in the US.

Italian news reports said that Mr Berlusconi's two oldest children, who help run the billionaire's business empire, have been pressing their father to have a pacemaker implanted but that he has been resisting.AP

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